News Round-Up

--BBC Develops MOLE for Live Red-Button Events
--Informational Web Site Launched for Project Canvas
--FCC Seeks Info on How STB's Might Encourage Viewing of Broadband Video
--UK Broadcaster Five in Deal to Offer Full-Length Programs on YouTube
--SAMBA Project Uses Interactive TV to Deliver Interactive Communications to Remote Communities

Here is a round-up of some other interactive TV-related stories we didn't have room for in this issue:

  • In a posting on the BBC's Press Red blog, Chris Tangye, assistant development producer for BBC Red Button, discusses MOLE, a new tool that the BBC Red Button team has developed in order to facilitate the production of live, red-button events.
  • Project Canvas--the joint initiative between the BBC, UK commercial terrestrial broadcasters ITV and Five, and UK incumbent telco BT, which seeks to develop a common standard and interface for the delivery of online catch-up services such as the BBC iPlayer and the ITV player, as well as other Internet-based VOD services, to broadband-connected set-top boxes--now has a Web site y( where the partners behind the venture (which is currently awaiting approval from the BBC Trust) can disseminate information¬† about the venture to the general public. "The BBC Internet Blog has been an important outlet for us, but as Canvas has a broader audience (and is not just a BBC project) we wanted a neutral space to communicate," Project Canvas director, Richard Halton, wrote on the BBC Internet Blog. "Its content reflects the views of the partnership." The site will also serve as a repository for developer tools: "For this project to succeed, the venture also needs manufacturers to build well as content companies to develop the applications to make content available on the platform," Halton continued. "To that end, we intend to make technical specifications and SDK's for developers available on the Canvas site, as and when we've written them." Halton's blog posting--in which he also touches on the Project Canvas backers' work with the UK's Digital Television Group to develop a Canvas standard--is available here.
  • The FCC last week published the latest in a series of Requests for Information for its national broadband plan. The new RFI is focused on how set-top boxes might encourage viewing of video over the Internet. "The convergence of the television and content delivered by IP makes this a critical time to promote innovation in set-top devices that could support the Commission's effort to drive broadband adoption and utilization," the RFI states. Multichannel News's John Eggerton has more.
  • UK commercial terrestrial broadcaster, Five, has announced a three-year, non-exclusive deal to make full-length programs from its Demand Five VOD catch-up service available on YouTube shortly after their broadcast, as well as 250 hours of archive programs. The shows, which will be located in YouTube UK's recently launched "Shows" section and which will be offered free of charge, will be geo-restricted to the UK. The deal will also give Five a branded presence on the video sharing site and will allow its sales team to sell display and video advertising around its content on the site, with ad revenues shared with YouTube. A similar deal between YouTube and UK broadcaster, Channel 4, was announced in October (see the article published on, October 19th). "The past few weeks have been exciting for all of us who love British TV, and we're delighted that our users can now find even more of their favorite programs in YouTube's new Shows section," Nikesh Arora, president of global sales operations and business development for YouTube-parent, Google, said in a prepared statement. "This landmark partnership with Five places them at the forefront of the new opportunities around full-length content online, and their shows will see increased reach and revenues. This kind of agreement is great for consumers, who now have new safe and legal ways to watch the shows they love whenever they want." Added Five chairman and CEO, Dawn Airey: "This is a tremendously important deal for Five because in one fell swoop it extends the reach of our content beyond linear TV and our own existing Web sites to a new audience of younger, upwardly mobile and Web-savvy individuals--an audience that advertisers are equally desirous of attracting, Importantly it extends the availability of legally available long-form content online, thereby dealing a blow to Web piracy." In a posting on a YouTube blog, Jamie Dolling, community editor for YouTube UK, revealed that "Five also intends to use YouTube as a platform to engage with fans of its shows. For example," he continued, "plans are afoot to offer YouTube users the opportunity to audition for a guest appearance on [Australian soap opera] 'Neighbours.'"
  • The EU's ICT Results publication has an update on the SAMBA project (stands for "System for Advanced interactive digital television and Mobile services in BrAzil"), which is using interactive TV technologies to deliver interactive communications to remote communities, and which has now apparently been successfully tested in Brazil and Italy. "Over half of the population of Brazil lives in remote towns and villages," ICT Results reports. "Many have no telephone connection. But the Brazilian power line network covers almost 95% of populated areas. And wherever there is power, there are usually television sets. Digital television signals with java applications embedded within them were broadcast by the SAMBA project into the small Brazilian town of Barreirinhas which is 300km from the nearest major city. Some 30 Barreirinhas households, in the vicinity of a 3km power line, were equipped with special set-top boxes that enabled them to access the broadcast data. The technology was designed for use by non-experts, and developed for delivery at minimum cost to maximize access for people with low incomes. The EU-funded SAMBA researchers developed a Content Management System for creating interactive applications that are cross-compatible between DVB-T MHP (terrestrial television) and DVB-H (handheld). The set-top boxes were connected to both the television and the house's mains electricity supply, because the power line was used as the return channel for the TV viewer to send online instructions over the system...The power line limited the return channel to Web speeds of around 2mb per second--certainly good enough for the interactive channel. It can support the transmission of text files, xml files and photos in seconds."


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